Action needed to stop Royal Mail sell-off

A postal worker, Royal Mail

Workers in Royal Mail have finally had a say on privatisation, after years of listening to MPs tell us what’s best for us and the services we deliver. 96% said “no!” to privatisation in a consultative ballot run by our union, CWU.

99% support the union’s pay claim for an above-inflation rise for at least two years, backdated to April 2013. 92% support non-cooperation with the employer over unmanageable workloads and unachievable budgets. 92% support a boycott of competitor’s mail, in an effort to highlight the unfair nature of competition, which will ultimately erode the Universal Service Obligation. 96% oppose privatisation.

The near unanimous opposition of workers to privatisation, and on a 74% turnout, shows that CWU members are up for a real fight to protect our jobs, conditions and the services we deliver.

The union leadership shouldn’t waste this mandate or allow workers’ anger and opposition to dissipate.

We are angry, with ever increasing workloads, bullying and harassment. We want action now to stop attacks on our jobs, which will of course only get worse under privatisation.

The starting gun on the latest attempt to privatise Royal Mail was fired by Labour, ten years ago. They allowed private companies to come in, cherry pick our most profitable work and dump the mail onto us for delivery.

Today 45% of all the mail we deliver is competitors’ mail, although since the passage of the Postal Services Act (which paves the way for privatisation), we can now charge a ‘market’ rate, bringing in £80 million last year.

The boycott of such mail (termed Downstream Access or DSA mail) which 92% of us supported in the ballot, is being challenged in court by Royal Mail, with an injunction being sought on 28 June.

Following on from Labour’s disastrous introduction of ‘competition’, Labour minister Lord Mandelson said in 2008 that 50% of Royal Mail would be sold, citing the Hooper Report, which identified the historic pension fund deficit as a problem for the company.

But this arose because of the ‘payment holiday’ RM took for 13 years, while workers continued to pay in.

This resulted in the closure of our final salary pensions scheme in 2010, when we were shunted to an inferior defined benefit scheme.

There remains a lot of anger among workers that we as a union allowed this to happen without a fight.

Our supposedly safe pensions are under threat again. A 60-day consultation period over changes to the latest scheme has just been opened by the company.

The CWU has rejected the proposals and instructed lawyers to look into the legality of them, while yet another round of lobbying MPs will begin.

We will be encouraged to send yet more postcards to MPs telling them that ‘they are not selling Royal Mail in our name’.

It’s my opinion, and that of many people I work with, that the union’s continued engagement in political lobbying of MPs is ineffectual. All the three main parties are in favour of privatisation, in some form or another.

It’s only through industrial action that we can force this government to do yet another U-turn. The government wants a sale done by the end of the year. We need to move now.

We need to link up with other public sector unions like PCS, who are in dispute, and coordinate strike action against austerity and privatisation.

Time is short but the mood is good. We need action now. Before it’s too late.